Group Therapy Is an Integral Part of Therapeutic Experience at Valley View School
Group work with adolescents can provide a forum to practice empathy and social skills, engender a positive sense of community, harness the positive impact of peer relationships and enhance the salience of the topics discussed.
Valley View uses a group format in a variety of ways, depending on the goals and maturity levels of the participants. One of the most effective forms of group therapy, especially with younger students, involves experientially-based groups. Experiential group therapy uses games and structured activities that both engage the participants and require communication, cooperation, resilience, and problem-solving. The groups usually end with a brief discussion of how the tasks were addressed and what can be learned from the experience. The tasks and game are enjoyable and less threatening than traditional process groups.
Doreen Neifert, LICSW, and Rhonda Albert, MSW, are clinicians at Valley View School who lead the experiential curriculum. Ms. Neifert states, “Recent activities have included team building tasks such as cooperatively rebuilding a Lego structure to match a model, creating music, constructing art projects, role-playing, engaging in animal care, and various other cooperative tasks.” For younger students who may struggle to attach words to feelings or engage in self-reflection, these activities promote age-appropriate processing of important material.
There is enormous flexibility in the use of experiential group techniques. Therapists are able to vividly convey concepts from a wide range of perspectives such as cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, social skill training, acceptance and commitment therapy, and so forth. In this way, experiential learning functions as a bridge to eventually being able to represent one’s inner world with more mature thinking and communication. Valley View clinicians have found that harnessing a youngster’s natural desire to play is often the most effective means of reducing therapeutic resistance and fostering emotional learning.
According to Ms. Albert, “It is incredibly helpful to get out of the office and engage the boys in a fun way; after that, the rest is easy. It is quite gratifying to see the insights of our students as they experience and process these fun activities.”
About Valley View School
About Valley View School, founded in 1970, is a private therapeutic boarding school serving boys in grades 6-12. Our non-profit 501(c)(3) school is located in the central Massachusetts town of North Brookfield. The Valley View Program consists of a comprehensive blend of Therapy, Academics, Athletics, Arts, and Activities challenging our students emotionally, intellectually, and physically. The boys learn self-control and anger management, social skills in order to create and cultivate relationships with peers and adults while developing compassion, empathy, and respect for others and to realize their true potential.